Review of Economics and Statistics

Published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press)
Online ISSN: 1530-9142
Publications
Panel A: Pill Diffusion and Abortion: Evidence from the NSYW 
Article
This paper considers how oral contraception's diffusion to young unmarried women affected the number and parental characteristics of children born to these women. In the short-term, pill access caused declines in fertility and increases in both the share of children born with low birthweight and the share born to poor households. In the long-term, access led to negligible changes in fertility while increasing the share of children with college-educated mothers and decreasing the share with divorced mothers. The short-term effects appear to be driven by upwardly-mobile women opting out of early childbearing while the long-term effects appear to be driven by a retiming of births to later ages. These effects differ from those of abortion legalization, although we find suggestive evidence that pill diffusion lowered abortions. Our results suggest that abortion and the pill are on average used for different purposes by different women, but on the margin some women substitute from abortion towards the pill when both are available. JELNo. I0, J13, N12.
 
Bias in the Estimated Male Graduation Rate under Various Assumptions, IPUMS 2000 
Bias in the Estimated Female Graduation Rate under Various Assumptions, IPUMS 2000 
Article
This paper applies a unified methodology to multiple data sets to estimate both the levels and trends in U.S. high school graduation rates. We establish that (a) the true rate is substantially lower than widely used measures; (b) it peaked in the early 1970s; (c) majority/minority differentials are substantial and have not converged for 35 years; (d) lower post-1970 rates are not solely due to increasing immigrant and minority populations; (e) our findings explain part of the slowdown in college attendance and rising college wage premiums; and (f) widening graduation differentials by gender help explain increasing male-female college attendance gaps.
 
Article
Season of birth is associated with later outcomes; what drives this association remains unclear. We consider a new explanation: variation in maternal characteristics. We document large changes in maternal characteristics for births throughout the year; winter births are disproportionally realized by teenagers and the unmarried. Family background controls explain nearly half of season-of-birth's relation to adult outcomes. Seasonality in maternal characteristics is driven by women trying to conceive; we find no seasonality among unwanted births. Prior seasonality-in-fertility research focuses on conditions at conception; here expected conditions at birth drive variation in maternal characteristics while conditions at conception are unimportant.
 
Article
Many developing countries use food-price subsidies or controls to improve nutrition. However, subsidizing goods on which households spend a high proportion of their budget can create large wealth effects. Consumers may then substitute towards foods with higher non-nutritional attributes (e.g., taste), but lower nutritional content per unit of currency, weakening or perhaps even reversing the subsidy's intended impact. We analyze data from a randomized program of large price subsidies for poor households in two provinces of China and find no evidence that the subsidies improved nutrition. In fact, it may have had a negative impact for some households. (JEL I38; O12; Q18).
 
Impact of Medicaid Family Planning Waivers on Births and Abortions for Teens and Non-Teens 
Impact of Medicaid Family Planning Waivers on Overall Births and Births of Eligible Women, by Demographic Group 
Sexual Activity and Contraception Use by Race/Ethnicity 
Article
We examine the impact of recent state-level Medicaid policy changes that expanded eligibility for family planning services to higher-income women and to Medicaid clients whose benefits would expire otherwise. We show that the income-based policy change reduced overall births to non-teens by about 2% and to teens by over 4%; estimates suggest a decline of 9% among newly eligible women. The reduction in fertility appears to have been accomplished via greater use of contraception. Our calculations indicate that allowing higher-income women to receive federally funded family planning cost on the order of $6,800 for each averted birth.
 
Article
A key prediction of dynamic labor demand models is that firing restrictions attenuate firms' employment responses to economic fluctuations. We provide the first direct test of this prediction using data from India. We exploit the fact that rainfall fluctuations, through their effects on agricultural productivity, generate variation in local demand within districts over time. Consistent with the theory, we find that industrial employment is more sensitive to shocks where labor regulation is less restrictive. Our results are robust to controlling for endogenous firm placement and vary across factory size in a pattern consistent with institutional features of Indian labor law.
 
Article
Using controlled experiments, we examine how individuals make choices when faced with multiple options. Choice tasks are designed to mimic the selection of health insurance, prescription drug, or retirement savings plans. In our experiment, available options can be objectively ranked allowing us to examine optimal decision making. First, the probability of a person selecting the optimal option declines as the number of options increases, with the decline being more pronounced for older subjects. Second, heuristics differ by age with older subjects relying more on suboptimal decision rules. In a heuristics validation experiment, older subjects make worse decisions than younger subjects.
 
Article
We showed 10-second, silent video clips of unfamiliar gubernatorial debates to a group of experimental participants and asked them to predict the election outcomes. The participants' predictions explain more than 20 percent of the variation in the actual two-party vote share across the 58 elections in our study, and their importance survives a range of controls, including state fixed effects. In a horse race of alternative forecasting models, participants' forecasts significantly outperform economic variables in predicting vote shares, and are comparable in predictive power to a measure of incumbency status. Participants' forecasts seem to rest on judgments of candidates' personal attributes (such as likeability), rather than inferences about candidates' policy positions. Though conclusive causal inference is not possible in our context, our findings may be seen as suggestive evidence of a causal effect of candidate appeal on election outcomes.
 
Article
A long-standing assumption among economists is that nursing home quality is common across Medicaid and private-pay patients within a shared facility. However, there has been only limited empirical work addressing this issue. Using a unique individual level panel of residents of nursing homes from seven states, we exploit both within-facility and within-person variation in payer source and quality to examine this issue. We also test the robustness of these results across states with different Medicaid and private-pay rate differentials. Across various identification strategies, our results are consistent with the assumption of common quality across Medicaid and private-paying patients within facilities.
 
Article
This paper analyzes both theoretically and empirically how an absolute grading standard that allows only a small number of distinct grades affects student course performance outcomes. The clearest prediction of the model is that course performance of "grade-motivated" students will tend to be clustered slightly above the boundaries that separate grades, as long as the variance of the random component of performance is not too large. A more tenuous prediction is that the proximity of a grade-motivated student to a grade boundary going into the final exam should influence final exam performance, after controlling for prefinal exam performance. An empirical investigation of the course performance of university students who were enrolled in introductory economics classes that used an absolute grading standard finds evidence in favor of both of these predictions. The results suggest that student effort decisions respond to the incentives created by the grading system. © 2001 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technolog
 
Article
Some properties and assumptions of the Census X-11 Program for time-series decomposition are discussed, mainly from the application point of view. We focus on the deficiencies and user limitations that are generated by the properties and assumptions. Some of the shortcomings follow directly from moving-average filters.
 
Article
The instantaneous probability (hazard rate) of a firm's exit from Chapter 11 protection is examined. Using the Weibull duration model, the effect of various regressors and the effect of the time a firm spends under Chapter 11 protection on this instantaneous probability is analyzed. I show that the hazard increases significantly under Chapter 11. Among the variables chosen, the interest burden of the firm and the capacity utilization of the firm's industry significantly increase the hazard. Other firm-specific variables like the long-term debt-to-assets ratio and the number of shares outstanding and economy wide variables, like the prime interest rate and the gross national product growth rate have no significant effect on the hazard. Copyright 1994 by MIT Press.
 
Article
In order to increase the commercialization of basic research, policymakers have tried to foster closer ties between university research and industry R&D. To empirically test whether there is a link between commercialization and university research, this paper models firm startups during 1976-78 for six two-digit manufacturing industries located in twenty-five metropolitan areas. The findings are mixed: the relationship between university research and firm births in the electrical and electronic equipment industries (SIC 36) is positive and statistically significant, while in the instruments and related industries (SIC 38) the relationship is statistically insignificant. Copyright 1993 by MIT Press.
 
Article
Poor countries are more volatile than rich countries, and this volatility impedes their growth. Furthermore, commodity prices are a key source of that volatility. This paper explores price volatility since 1700 to offer three stylized facts: commodity price volatility has not increased over time, commodities have always shown greater price volatility than manufactures, and world market integration breeds less commodity price volatility. Thus, economic isolation is associated with much greater commodity price volatility, while world market integration is associated with less. © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
Poor countries are more volatile than rich countries, and we know this volatility impedes their growth. We also know that commodity price volatility is a key source of those shocks. This paper explores commodity and manufactures price over the past three centuries to answer three questions: Has commodity price volatility increased over time? The answer is no: there is little evidence of trend since 1700. Have commodities always shown greater price volatility than manufactures? The answer is yes. Higher commodity price volatility is not the modern product of asymmetric industrial organizations - oligopolistic manufacturing versus competitive commodity markets - that only appeared with the industrial revolution. It was a fact of life deep into the 18th century. Does world market integration breed more or less commodity price volatility? The answer is less. Three centuries of history shows unambiguously that economic isolation caused by war or autarkic policy has been associated with much greater commodity price volatility, while world market integration associated with peace and pro-global policy has been associated with less commodity price volatility. Given specialization and comparative advantage, globalization has been good for growth in poor countries at least by diminishing price volatility. But comparative advantage has never been constant. Globalization increased poor country specialization in commodities when the world went open after the early 19th century; but it did not do so after the 1970s as the Third World shifted to labor-intensive manufactures. Whether price volatility or specialization dominates terms of trade and thus aggregate volatility in poor countries is thus conditional on the century.
 
Article
The distribution of wealth in real estate among people in the United States at the end of the eighteenth century has been estimated from a sample of rolls of the census of real estate in 1798. Mean real wealth was $1,433 and the Gini coefficient of inequality was 0.588 with half the adult male population owning property. A comparison with the distribution for real estate in 1860 shows that wealth grew 1.9% a year per person. Relative inequality was a little larger than in 1798 but the difference can be explained by errors in measurement.
 
Article
A census of all housing values was made in the United States in 1798 which provides the basis for obtaining an estimate of the distribution of income in that year. A 7% sample of the 576,800 dwelling units was adjusted for the number of families in a house and various assumptions were made concerning the elasticity of housing with respect to income. The relative inequality of income with a Gini coefficient of between 0.63 and 0.71 was much greater than it is today. Similar results were found for housing distributions then and now.
 
Article
Several theories of firm performance can explain the well known observation that survival is positively related to age. However, a more mundane explanation-selection bias driven by variations in firm quality-may also underlie the phenomenon. This paper employs a 90 year plant-level panel data set on the U.S. iron and steel shipbuilding industry of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to discriminate between the explanations. The shipbuilding industry exhibits the usual joint dependence of survival on age and size, but this dependence is eliminated after controlling for heterogeneity by using preentry experience as a proxy for firm quality. The evidence points to a dominant role for selection bias in creating the age dependence of survival. At the same time, preentry experience is found to have a large and extremely persistent effect on survival, and this finding is inconsistent with standard explanations for the role of preentry experience on firm performance. Copyright (c) 2005 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
Did living standards stagnate before the Industrial Revolution? Traditional real-wage indices typically show broadly constant living standards before 1800. In this paper, we show that living standards rose substantially, but surreptitiously because of the growing availability of new goods. Colonial luxuries such as tea, coffee, and sugar transformed European diets after the discovery of America and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. These goods became household items in many countries by the end of the 18th century. We use the Greenwood-Kopecky (2009) method to calculate welfare gains based on data about price changes and the rate of adoption of new colonial goods. Our results suggest that by 1850, the average Englishman would have been willing to forego 15% or more of his income in order to maintain access to sugar and tea alone. These findings are robust to a wide range of alternative assumptions, data series, and valuation methods.
 
Article
This paper depicts and analyzes the wealth distribution and wealth mobility in a national sample of nearly 1,600 households matched in the 1850 and 1860 manuscript schedules of the census. Gini coefficients, a transition matrix, the Shorrocks measure, and a regression model of wealth accumulation are estimated from these data. The findings shed light on theories of the wealth distribution, life-cycle behavior, regional economic performance, accumulation patterns of ethnic and occupational groups, and the empirical basis for critiques of capitalism. Comparisons with modern data show that mid-nineteenth-century households were less mobile at the lower end of the wealth distribution, but more mobile at the upper end. Copyright 1990 by MIT Press.
 
Article
This study examines relative wage variability across industries between 1860 and 1983. The variance across industries in wage growth was at least four times larger before 1948 than afterward. Except for smaller year-to-year variability in output growth across industries after 1948, the macroeconomic factors examined cannot account for this increased rigidity of relative wages. Increases in average establishment size and improved communication of wage trends are probably partially responsible for the observed increase in relative wage rigidity. No single macroeconomic model was consistent with the year-to-year fluctuations in relative wage rigidity in every historical period examined. Copyright 1987 by MIT Press.
 
Article
This chapter describes the issues confronting any realistic context for economic forecasting, which is inevitably based on unknowingly mis-specified models, usually estimated from mis-measured data, facing intermittent and often unanticipated location shifts. We focus on mitigating the systematic forecast failures that result in such settings, and describe the background to our approach, the difficulties of evaluating forecasts, and the devices that are more robust when change occurs.
 
Article
A popular theory of optimal tax policies suggests that tax rates should follow a random walk. This paper extends the existing empirical literature in three ways. First, the impact on the marginal utility of consumption when the government chooses a tax plan to smooth the distorting impact of taxes is considered. Second, exogenous changes in the real rate of interest are incorporated into the government's optimal tax plan. Finally, the tax elasticity of output is not constant over time. Allowing for these changes, there is evidence that the government discounts the future, attempts to smooth the distorting impact of taxes on the marginal utility of consumption, and that the tax elasticity of output moves predictably during wars. Copyright 1993 by MIT Press.
 
The Absolute Price Indices  
Beta Price Level Convergence
Article
We compare price level and income convergence since 1870 for eleven developed economies using implicit price deflators derived from the GDP data of Maddison (1995, 2001, 2003). We find that "sigma" and "beta" convergence for prices occurs later and to a lesser extent than income. Price levels converge after 1950 while income convergence begins in the 1880s. We find no evidence for stochastic price convergence or for "club" price convergence. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
This paper develops a simple time series model of emigration and applies it to data for emigration from the United Kingdom, 1870-1913. The model is derived from a macroeconomic analysis of the migration decision and provides a specific functional form and dynamic structure. It encompasses and explains many of the empirical findings of earlier research on the determinants of emigration over this historical period. The results support the model strongly in most respects. Both wage rates and employment rates in the sending and in the receiving countries influenced fluctuations in emigration. The short-run fluctuations were driven largely by variations in employment rates while the long-run level of emigration was determined largely by the relative wage. Copyright 1995 by MIT Press.
 
Article
In this paper, the author obtains and interprets estimates of short- and long-run demand for money in the United King dom in the period 1871-1913 utilizing high-quality data on broad money and its determinants and applying recent econometric techniques. A unique, theoretically consistent long-run function is estimated as well as a short-run dynamic demand function that is formally superio r to a number of previous estimates. Copyright 1993 by MIT Press.
 
Article
This paper brings historical evidence to bear on the stylized fact that the yield curve predicts future growth. The spread between corporate bonds and commercial paper reliably predicts future growth over the period 1875-1997. This predictability varies over time, however, and has been strongest in the post-World War II period. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
A major question in the literature on the classical gold standard concerns the efficiency of international arbitrage. Authors have examined efficiency by looking at the spread of the gold points, gold point violations, or the flow of gold, or by tests of various asset market criteria, including speculative efficiency and interest arbitrage. These studies have suffered from many limitations, both methodological and empirical. We offer a new methodology for measuring market integration based on nonlinear theoretical models and threshold autoregressions. We also compile a new, high-frequency series of continuous daily data from 1879 to 1913. We can derive reasonable econometric estimates of the implied gold points and price dynamics. The changes in these measures over time provide an insight into the evolution of market integration. Copyright (c) 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
The United States became a net exporter of manufactured goods around 1910 after a dramatic surge in iron and steel exports began in the mid-1890s. This paper argues that natural-resource abundance fueled the expansion of iron and steel exports in part by enabling a sharp reduction in the price of U.S. exports relative to other competitors. The commercial exploitation of the Mesabi iron ore range, for example, reduced domestic ore prices by 50% in the mid-1890s and was equivalent to over a decade's worth of industry productivity improvement in its effect on iron and steel export prices. The nontradability of American ore resulted in its distinctive impact on the pattern of U.S. trade. The results are consistent with Wright's (1990) finding that U.S. manufactured exports were natural-resource-intensive at this time. Copyright (c) 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
We incorporate previously omitted controls of external conditions in transportation and commodity markets into Porter’s (1983) analysis of industry demand, conduct and stability of the JEC railroad cartel. We estimate the equilibrium price path, non-parametrically, and find that the reaction of the JEC in its rate setting to the nature of rate setting, over alternative modes of conveyance, is very much predicted by the theoretical considerations in Haltiwanger and Harrington (1991). Periods of Cartel instability are triggered by unexpected booms in corn markets in New York, amongst other factors. The latter is consistent with the Green and Porter (1984) theory.
 
Article
This paper studies the evolution of income concentration in Japan from 1886 to 2005 by constructing long-run series of top income shares and top wage income shares, using income tax statistics. We find that (i) income concentration was extremely high throughout the pre-WWII period during which the nation underwent rapid industrialization; (ii) a drastic de-concentration of income at the top took place in 1938-1945; (iii) income concentration remained low during the rest of the century but shows some sign of increase in the last decade; and (iv) top income composition in Japan has shifted dramatically from capital income to employment income over the course of the twentieth century. We attribute the precipitous fall in income concentration during WWII primarily to the collapse of capital income due to wartime regulations and inflation. We argue that the change in the institutional structure under the occupational reforms made the one-time income de-concentration difficult to reverse. In contrast to the sharp increase in wage income inequality observed in the United States since 1970, the top wage income shares in Japan have remained relatively stable over the last thirty years. We show that the change in technology or tax policies alone cannot account for the comparative experience of Japan and the United States. Instead we suggest that institutional factors such as internal labor markets and union structure are important determinants of wage income concentration. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
Does economic inequality affect redistributive policy? This paper turns to U.S. county data on land inequality over the period 1890 to 1930 to help address this fundamental question in political economy. Redistributive policy was primarily decided at the local level during this period, making county-level data particularly informative. Examining within-state variation also reduces the potential impact of latent institutional and political variables. The paper also uses a variety of identification strategies, including historic variables as well as county weather and crop characteristics, as instruments for land inequality. The evidence consistently suggests that greater inequality is significantly associated with less redistribution. This negative relationship is especially large in heavily rural counties, where concentrated landownership implied that landed elites also controlled the majority of economic production. (c) 2010 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Article
Using a large, individual-level wage data set, we examine the impact of a major technological innovation-the steam engine-on the demand for skills in the merchant shipping industry. We find that the technical change created a new demand for engineers, a skilled occupation. It had a deskilling effect on production work-moderately skilled able-bodied seamen were replaced by unskilled engine room operatives. On the other hand, able-bodied seamen, carpenters, and mates employed on steam vessels earned a premium relative to their counterparts on sail vessels, and this appears partly related to skill. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
 
Top-cited authors
Tim Bollerslev
  • Duke University
Rajeev H. Dehejia
  • New York University
Jeffrey H. Bergstrand
  • University of Notre Dame
J. M.C. Santos Silva
  • University of Surrey
Silvana Tenreyro
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science